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Fire Emissions Joint Forum:
Non-Burning Alternatives on Agricultural Lands (Task

Non-burning alternatives to fires on wildlands will be assessed by characterizing their potential economic, social, and political impacts.

Final Reports

Non-Burning Management Alternatives on Agricultural Lands inthe Western United States.

Air emissions from burning agricultural residue, primarily consisting of fine particles, can be a significant source of air pollution on a short-term and intermittent basis. These emissions can directly impact visibility in Class I areas located near burns, or those Class I areas located far away through regional transport. The Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP) and its Fire Emissions Joint Forum (FEJF) sponsored this study to investigate the alternatives to agricultural burning. The geographical scope of the project included the 15 Western states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. State as well as tribal lands within these states were assessed. The objectives of this study, which were addressed in the draft final document, included the following:

  • Development of a crop production database and an agricultural burning activity database for 1996; 
  • Identification of the "universe" of potential non-burning management alternatives;
  • Design of a methodology to asses the impacts of alternatives (e.g., agronomic, environmental, economic);
  • Identification of existing and potential accountability mechanisms (e.g., smoke management programs, voluntary versus mandatory programs, etc.) for tracking if, and which, non-burning alternatives are used by local, state, tribal, or federal entities; and
  • Development of a plan for implementing alternatives in the 15 Western states.

The crop production database was developed from data obtained from the National and State Agricultural Statistics Service (1996); other state reports (e.g., California Agricultural Commissioner's Annual Report); and the Census of Agricultural (1997). The agricultural burning activity database was developed from data compiled by various agencies (e.g., San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, Washington Department of Ecology, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality). For areas within the 15 Western states where agricultural burning is known to occur, but activity data are not tracked (e.g., Colorado, parts of Nevada, Montana), estimates of burning activity (i.e., tons of residue burned) were made. These estimates helped to provide a comprehensive database for assessing potential non-burning alternatives, and to assist in WRAP/FEJF emissions inventory efforts.

Analyses were conducted to determine the accountability mechanisms in place throughout the Western states. These mechanisms included a range of programs from agricultural burning exemptions to requirements for pre-burn permits and offers of financial assistance to implement non-burning alternatives. Also, non-statutory barriers to implementation of non-burning alternatives, such as political influences and cultural practices, were examined. For the universe of non-burning alternatives identified, impacts were identified and analyzed using criteria developed to determine feasibility of impacts. These criteria included issues such as soil compression resulting from soil incorporation, and cost-effectiveness of implementing non-burning practices as compared to burning residues. Guidelines and recommendations pertaining to implementation of alternatives, and a broader non-burning program, are made.


Fire Emissions Joint Forum



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